Saturday, December 20, 2008

Worse To Bad

I've heard alarms like this before--in fact, I recall more persistent alarmism about the economy a few times in the 70s and 80s. But this is a different economy--it seems more interconnected and fragile. In any case, I am used to areas of life where the strain is obvious, while other parts of life and the economy seem to go on pretty well. This time, I'm observing the consequences almost everywhere. Pretty big ones too. When everything from housing to manufacturing to retail to newspapers and television--even public television--plus local and particularly state governments with huge cutbacks and just plain failures--it seems to be getting worse fast. Maybe that's why the alarms are curiously muted. Denial roasting on an open fire.

So this kind of apocalyptic Washington talk doesn't seem so much like hyperbole-as-usual. The dithering of the Bushites is helping to make things worse, and Obama's first task will be to move the economy from worse to bad. Though the Bushites finally managed a bridge loan to the auto companies, they also included more disproportionate punishment for labor, big surprise.

Paul Krugman outlined a sane approach to saving the economy in a New York Review essay. But that was written a month ago. Don't know what he thinks now, except that he says we're in very deep trouble, and to get out of it we'll need "creativity" and "luck." Still, his conclusion in the NYRB article emphasizes the creativity part: "We will not achieve the understanding we need, however, unless we are willing to think clearly about our problems and to follow those thoughts wherever they lead. Some people say that our economic problems are structural, with no quick cure available; but I believe that the only important structural obstacles to world prosperity are the obsolete doctrines that clutter the minds of men."

Here at home, we just started watching the DVDs of "The West Wing" beginning with the pilot episode: the Democratic administration is trying to make peace with the religious right. Still ripped from the headlines... I did get a little tremor from the past in identifying with the staff working for the Democratic President, and I suppose there's a little tremor of regret in not being either young enough or prominent enough to even try to be part of the new one. On the other hand, it's unlikely that at my age I'd feel politic enough not to say stuff like: Rick Warren is an idiot. Or perhaps even worse (given the power of the Oprah) that Dr. Phil is also an idiot.

As for the Rev. Warren deal, I think it's a mistake on several levels. After the shock of CA's Prop 8 and similar measures in other states, this is an unnecessary punch to the LGBT community, and the individuals within it. There could have been a less prominent, less symbolic, and more appropriate way to accomplish the always dodgy business of including the selectively intolerant and dogmatic.

But in a post at Time's "Swampland" suggesting that this is causing "buyer's remorse" among some Obama supporters. That's probably true of some, but personally I always assumed I would be disagreeing with Obama on one issue or another. I'm still happy with my purchase of a President, thank you.

In the meantime, we're about to have some primetime political theatre here in CA. While Ahnold and the legislature play high stakes poker with this huge state's huge finances (and ours personally, since we both derive major part of our incomes from a state university), there's about to be a showdown in the state supreme court over Prop 8. Attorney General Jerry Brown (yep, that one--former gov and prez candidate in the 70s) has just announced that he's not taking the side he's supposed to--defending the passage of the Prop 8 constitutional amendment as passed by voters--but arguing that it is itself unconstitutional, on equal protection grounds.

Jerry Brown will be facing off against the lead attorney arguing for Prop 8 and its amendment banning gay marriage--none other than Kenneth Starr (yep, that one--the Whitewater prosecutor and impeach Clinton guy.) Sounds like a live TV opportunity to me.

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